Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Organize with Lists

Christmas has so many aspects that it is hard to keep a good system for organization.  One of the things that helps me a lot is a simple list.


Even lists can use some structure, though, and here are some lists that I use to keep me organized. Some of these lists are ongoing and need updating regularly, others are just for the season.  So let's get started and learn about lists!

1.  Gifts

Like most, I keep a master list subdivided by person for all my gifts.  I print it and keep it in a notebook to refer to in the future.  It has shown me how my spending patterns change over time.  There are many good ones on Pinterest if you don't want to create one yourself.

2.  Things to Buy

I keep a running list of things that I need to replenish from year to year.  For example, last year I noticed that my plaid tablecloth was on its last leg.  I added it to my list to replace for this year. I also always tend to forget paper products and make a last minute run to the store.  Over time I have learned all my tendencies to forget, procrastinate, etc.  This list helps!

3.  DIY

I keep a list of all the things I want to make for myself or for gifts for others.  I make this an electronic list, so I can keep URLs for those projects.  Do you remember tear files? I used to tear out things from magazines and keep them in a file for future use.  This is like a tear file, but electronic. Do you have some favorite DIY sites?  I truly like Mixed Kreations for simple repurposing and I love Random Acts of Crafts for their wonderful round ups!

4.  Christmas Cards

This list is the one that is getting more and more of a puzzle. I love love love sending Christmas cards, but it seems to be a dying craft.  My list, at it's largest, was over 300.  Now it is closer to 50. I am in a couple of Christmas Card exchanges which are a lot of fun!  I do use an electronic list for this but I handwrite my cards.  I generally get started around the first of November with a goal to send them out on December 1.  I love photo cards the most (next to Charlie Brown cards!) and each year it is fun to have our photo taken for the card. This year we are using a photo from our vacation.  My favorite card sites are Shutterfly and VistaPrint

5.  Menus

This is my favorite thing to work on!  All year I am trying different breakfast casseroles and brunch items to create the perfect Christmas breakfast.  It is a tradition that we love!  I love to peruse Pinterest to find ideas and I save them to my Christmas Breakfast Board.  Then in November I start to narrow down the list and finally, after much deliberation, choose what will be the Christmas Breakfast of the Year.  I make a grocery list and then set it aside until I need it.  I also plan menus for my Annual Cookie Exchange and Christmas Eve (we do an entire meal of nothing but appetizers!)

6.  Cleaning

Blech.  This is my least favorite list of all.  I have it down to a science now though, because I have been doing it for 40 years!  I basically take one room a week and do a deep cleaning.  I always put the living room the week before Thanksgiving, as we decorate our tree the weekend after Thanksgiving.  That means the room is clean and ready for decorations!  I leave the kitchen until the week after Thanksgiving.  Then it is all ready for Christmas baking and cooking!  Everything fabric gets washed, everything glass gets polished, floors get scrubbed and I knock down cobwebs and whatever else needs attention.  All the lighting gets cleaned as well.

7.  Christmas Cooking

I make cookies and candies to give to friends and family throughout the season.  I have started to make small batches and to give a variety plate instead of a large batch of one thing.  I host a Cookie Exchange in order to help with that process.  I make list of the tried and true recipes I want to make and then I have a list of those new items that I found that I want to try.  I have a number of Pinterest fails each year but then there are some that make the tried and true list!  I'll be sharing this list later on!

I hope my lists help you be a bit more organized over the holidays!  

I have a new way of tracking my lists.  Have you heard of Rocket Wave Notebooks?  I am in love with these!  I have added a little video to share about this wonderful invention.  I plan to buy these as gifts for all my nieces and nephews!


You can buy these through Amazon.  If you choose to purchase one, I would love it if you would use my link.  The cost is the same for you but I get a tiny commission.  It is a way that you can support this blog for future posts!  I would love to learn from you!  What lists are you writing for the holidays?


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Christmas Haus

I love traveling the small towns in my state of Missouri.  This summer my husband and I took a trip to Kimmswick, a quaint town on the Mississippi River.  It was founded in 1859 by Theodore Kimm, a St. Louis businessman who originated from Brunswick, Germany.  The name of the town is a combination of the two names.  The town grew to have its own flour mill, brewery, brickyard, copper shop, wagon maker, and blacksmith shop.



The town has restored many of its homes to their 1850s charm and draws visitors each year to shop in its charming shops and The Blue Owl, a restaurant that was featured on Oprah, The Food Network, The Today Show and The Travel Channel!  They are famous for their Mile High Pie.  We had it and it was amazing!!!


My favorite spot, though, was The Christmas Haus, a Christmas shop on the edge of town.  Walking up to it is so exciting!  There is a large front porch with comfy chairs and a large Santa.  Continuing into the shop, you can go left or right.  I headed right.  Already there were several decorated trees waiting for me!  Many nativity sets and large Santas were displayed throughout.  The shop carries Byers Carolers and Baldwin Brass, too.  I also found this adorable Magical Elf Ornament, which is going to be a giveaway today for one lucky reader!




To enter this contest, simply leave a comment on the question below.  If you want to like my Facebook page, that would be awesome, but is not a requirement.  You can find the page here:  Christmas Tree Lane.


Isn't this sweet?  A lot like Elf on the Shelf, but little.  He's about 2 inches high.  I'll mail him anywhere in the US and Canada.

Do you enjoy Christmas shoppes, too?  When I am traveling, I like to be on the look out for a Christmas shop. It is my favorite place to get a souvenir!

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

I am so excited to start my Christmas book reviews for this holiday season with this new book by author Melody Carlson.  I have eagerly awaited this book's arrival since I learned of its publishing date.  I am a big fan of Melody Carlson and her Christmas books are a tradition for me.


The setting of the book is during WWII in the 1940s.  Amelia Richards, a young mother who has a child out of wedlock, is struggling financially and emotionally with her newborn infant.  She has learned that her fiance was shot over Japan in his airplane and is dead. She makes the decision to go and find James' family to help her with the baby.  Many things happen, including both the baby and Amelia becoming very ill.  She manages to sneak the baby into the manger on the front lawn of James' parents' home.  She is afraid to meet them, worrying that the family might think she is just out to get money.

The story builds to an astonishing conclusion.  A perfect ending to a Christmas story.

This is an easy read. I read it in about an afternoon and a half.  Perfect for those holiday afternoons where you want to sit in front of the fireplace and sip some hot chocolate and read a wonderful story.  There is some Gospel overtones to the story.  It isn't very deep, and given that this is the Christmas season, I would have liked it to be a little more religious, but not everyone feels the same.

Melody Carlson creates characters you want to know as real friends. I fell in love with James' parents and as a parent, understood where they were coming from, even when it seemed harsh.  I will look forward to her next Christmas story.

Author Bio:  Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with combined sales of more than six million. She is the author of several Christmas books, including the bestselling The Christmas Bus, The Christmas Dog, Christmas at Harrington's, The Christmas Cat, The Christmas Joy Ride, and The Christmas Angel Project. She received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series and Finding Alice. She and her husband live in central Oregon. Learn more at www.melodycarlson.com.

If you would like to purchase this book for reading, please use the link below.  It gives me a small commission but doesn't change the price for you!  Thank you for supporting Christmas Tree Lane!

The Christmas Blessing

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

DIY Christmas Gifts for Teens

I have several nieces and nephews who would be perfectly happy with a gift card from me, but I like to put a bit more thought into their gifts.  Who wouldn't want a Peppermint Candy Bath Bomb or a Lucky Lollipop?  We have so much fun with giving gifts that are from the heart and less from the pocketbook!


Last year my Teen Emergency Kits were a big hit with my nieces and nephews.  They loved the snacks and the different items that they never thought they might need. It fit right into their lockers. What gifts do you like to give to the teens in your life?

Super long rainbow scarf by Nemcsok Farms
Tetris Magnets by Moms & Crafters
Giant Pouf Cushion by Craft Passion
High School Diary by Pink When
Super Hero Canvas by Mod Podge Rocks
DIY Pillow Cover by the Idea Room
Messy Bun Hat by Knits’ End
Easy Flannel Throw Blankets by the Girl Inspired
Lucky Lollipops by I Heart Naptime
Crochet Chewbacca Zipper Pull by Dollar Store Crafts
Hammock Chair by a Beautiful Mess
Comic Book Magnets by Crafts by Amanda

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sugar Free Christmas Treats

Like many Americans and people around the world, I am reducing the amount of sugar in my diet.  It is not an easy (or fun) task, but it is so important for our health.  The holidays are known for its sugary treats, but back in the day, when these things were rare, it was a treat!  Now we can go to the grocery store and see hundreds of varieties of cookies, cakes, ice creams and all kinds of treats.



To help keep the holidays a bit sane when it comes to sugar, here are a few sugar free treats that can be available to the ones who don't want to blow it during the holidays.  I hope you find one or two that can be in your home!

Layered Peppermint Patties by Paleo Flourish Magazine
Sugar Free Pumpkin Pudding by Premeditated Leftovers
Sugar Free Snickerdoodles by What Mommy Does
Copy Cat Ferrero Rocher by Sugar Free Mom
Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies by the Healthy Foodie
Sea Salt Chocolate Caramels by Forest and Fauna
Pumpkin Spice Thumbprint Cookies by A Girl Worth Saving
Cranberry Almond Cookies by Step Away from the Carbs

I know a lot of people think that "it's Christmas, indulge!" but this list is for the person that can't, as it is a life or death situation. Holidays are meant to be enjoyed by all, and hopefully this list will let those celebrate as heartily as the rest of the world!

Merry Christmas! #itsnevertooearly

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

DIY Christmas Stockings

You might remember that my family has decided to spend Christmas in Mexico.  While I am very excited about it, I am also feeling very nostalgic about our traditions.  One tradition will continue even when we are on vacation, and that is Christmas stockings!


Burlap Christmas Stocking by Craft Passion
Easy Christmas Stockings by Craftaholics Anonymous
Classic Cuffed Stockings by Positively Splendid
DIY Sweater Stockings by Confessions of a Serial DIYer
Woven Stockings by a Beautiful Mess
Stiletto Christmas Stockings by Interior Frugalista
Duct Tape Stockings by Club Chica Cirlce
Fur Topped Stocking by Jessie at Home
Crochet Stocking by With a Grateful Prayer and a Thankful Heart
DIY Felt Stockings by Homemade Ginger
Fur Flannel Stocking Pattern by Girl Inspired


My thoughts right now are to pack up a suitcase with our traditional stockings and all the gifts we will have for them.  I am thinking that the "gifts" will mostly be experiences to have in Cabo.  Like a whale watching trip, a special homemade dinner in the condo, etc.  The gifts might be just the description of the event on a card and the card will go into the stocking.  Maybe some gift cards, too. I am still brainstorming right now.  Any ideas greatly appreciated!!

Do you have traditions centered around stockings?  Tell us yours!


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Dealing with Christmas Stress

Yep, I have heard it said time and time again:  Christmas can be a stressful time.  So many of us get caught up in the details, will the brothers start arguing about politics again?  Will the turkey be browned and juicy?  These details can weigh us down and create feelings of wishing the holidays would "just be over."



Are you familiar with the Christmas truce of 1914?  I wasn't until I read about it on the internet.    It seems that Pope Benedict the XV wanted a temporary cease fire at Christmas but the generals on each side refused.  When Christmas came around, the soldiers chose to lay down their weapons. Soldiers from each side exchanged gifts, shared food, and played football!  What a sight that must have been!

Our holidays do not have to be stressful.  We can let the potatoes be lumpy and the turkey a bit dry.  It is the love of our family and friends that must be foremost on this holiday.  Set aside your worries and family dramas and enjoy Christmas as it is meant to be.

These tried and true tips help me each year.  I hope one or two of them will help you, too!

1.  Plan Ahead!  Read my post here about 21 things to do before December 1.

2.  Shop Online!  I loved having packages delivered to my home and avoiding the mall!

3.  Stick to a budget. This is hard for me, but in February I am so grateful I did.  Make a list, get creative but adhere to the limits you set for yourself.

4.  Build in self care.  Schedule your hair appts, massages, manis and pedis and any other self care that you need.  Schedule it and then, follow your schedule.

5.  Learn to breathe properly.  This is a skill you need to learn. You will be surprised at the difference it will make.

6.  Do less and enjoy more.  Pick how busy you want to be.  We schedule our events carefully and then purchase tickets to the ones we really want to do.  I like to be more busy than my husband, so I schedule things to do with girlfriends and he relaxes the way he likes!

If you have another holiday destresser, share it with us in the comments!  Can't wait to learn more!




Wednesday, August 30, 2017

DIY Christmas Wreaths


If you do nothing else to decorate at Christmas, put a festive wreath on your door.  This little act will cheer you each and every time you see it.  All of these wreaths will make you smile, too.  I love taking a wreath to a Christmas party for the hostess.  Wreaths can be used inside and out, at the office or on the barn door.  There is no limit to the opportunities for a pretty wreath.

Woodland Christmas Wreath by Craft-O-Maniac
Starlight Mint Wreath by Burlap and Blue
Christmas Candy Wreath by Dollar Store Crafts
Christmas Rag Wreath by Bless This Mess
Faux Leather and Flannel Wreath by the Crafted Sparrow
Christmas Twig Wreath by Confessions of a Serial DIYer
Joy Wreath by the Idea Room
DIY Eucalyptus and Pine Wreath by the Sweetest Occasion
Hydrangea Christmas Wreath by Simply Designing
Paper Christmas Wreath by Lia Griffith
Family Photo Wreath by the Crafting Chicks
Wine Cork Wreath by Design Improvised
Fresh Holly Wreath by Garden Therapy

The history behind the holly wreath is lovely.  The circle of the wreath represents the circle of life. Evergreen branches symbolize everlasting life and when holly is used in a wreath, its prickly thorns represent the thorns on Jesus' crown.  Whether or not you are a believer, the history and legend behind the wreath is fun to know.

Which of these is your favorite? Do you hang a wreath on your door for the holidays?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Surprise Gift Wrappings

My mother had a real talent for gift wrapping in unusual ways.  Each year she would give my dad his annual hunting and fishing license for Christmas.  She was so good at coming up with tricky ways to disguise what was a gift he knew he was getting.

One year she taped the license to a brick and then wrapped the brick.

She opened a box of cereal and slipped it into the cereal and wrapped the cereal as a gift.

One year she did a progressive sized boxing and the license was in the smallest box.

She placed the license in a book once.

I remember the license was in a coffee can.

And you know what? My dad was always able to guess that the license was in that package!  I remember how it always made us giggle, that dad could always figure out which package had the license!

To spark your own creativity, check out this list of wonderful ways to wrap your own Christmas gifts! And, if you have any great ideas for my mom, please leave them here!


15 Unique Gift Wrap Ideas
Santa Belt Gift Wrap by Craft Passion
Printable Gift Boxes by Lolly Jane
Fabric Gift Wrap by the Sweetest Occasion
Kraft Paper with Cupcake Liner Bows by Craftaholics Anonymous
Personalized Photo Gift Tags by Simply Designing
Burlap Gift Bag by Uncommon Designs
Recycled Paper Strips Gift Wrap by the Country Chic Cottage
Canvas Drop Cloth Gift Wrap by the Idea Room
Coloring Page Gift Bows by Lines Across
Polka Dot Gift Wrap by I Try DIY
Lunch Bag Holiday Wrapping by Lovely Indeed
Napkin Gift Wrap by Hello Glow
Atlas Paper Wrap by a Beautiful Mess

DIY Confetti Gift Bags by Mod Podge Rocks

Which is your favorite??  I am all about that map gift wrap, wouldn't that be fun for a set of airline tickets?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Christmas Countdown Ideas

I adore counting down to Christmas! I love advent calendars and those cute little pocket things with little trinkets inside! I shop for trinkets all year around, especially when we travel. I love picking up items that are unique to the area.  For example, when we were in Cabo last, I picked up individually wrapped Mexican chocolates! I also found some delightful individually wrapped tea bags using Mexican vanilla and tea.  What trinkets are you finding out there?  This is a great time to get good deals on school supplies AND Christmas is a great time to receive new ones!  Here are some wonderful ways to count down to Christmas that you will want to make.



Christmas Tree Countdown by My Sister’s Suitcase
Christmas Countdown Garland by the Crafting Chicks
Christmas Book Countdown by Positively Splendid
Advent Countdown Calendar by Design Dazzle
DIY Advent Jar by Mess for Less
DIY Boxes Advent Calendar by Powerful Mothering
25 Days of Service by I Heart Naptime

So who started all this counting down to Christmas?  Back in the day, the celebrants of Christ's birthday used Advent to lead up to the event.  Each Sunday was a set of prayers and scriptures that were said and candles were lit.  Some attribute the countdown fad to German carpenters in the 19th century who made wooden calendars of tiny drawers in which a treat was held.  This led the way to the current explosion of ways to countdown to Christmas.  Whomever you give credit, it is a wonderful way to build the excitement for one of my favorite holidays.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

21 Things I Do Before December 1

Christmas lovers agree that planning carefully is what makes the season extra special.  Having certain things in place before the official Christmas season makes the season far less stressful.  Here are my 21 things to do before December 1.



  1. I pin every day.  I look for ideas on the things I am planning and I pin away!  Links to my Christmas boards are here
  2. I organize my Christmas stuff by sorting what stays and what is going. I take photos and start selling my stuff in November.
  3. I plan my Christmas card and photo.  We love to send photo cards!
  4. I work on my Christmas blog.  We use this instead of a newsletter.  Here is are our Christmas blogs from years past.
  5. I create a paper calendar for the month of December.  I write down all the dates of events that I hear about on Facebook, online, word of mouth, etc.  When we buy tickets, all that gets added to the paper calendar.
  6. Make a list of movies that I want to revisit and ones that are being released that I want to see.
  7. Create my Spotify list.  I add some songs and take off some that I didn't care for the last year.
  8. Buy a new Santa hat!  When the Christmas stuff starts to make its appearance, I want to buy something and this is something I know I will use!
  9. I order my husband a new set of Christmas socks.
  10. Through the fall I will make and taste several cookies and candies.  Since I am going low carb as much as possible, this is going to be a big event for me this year!
  11. Using the Starbucks app, I look for the season's holiday drinks, look at what I can do to reduce the sugar, and load my "created" recipe into the app for easy ordering!
  12. Send out Facebook invites to my family for our holiday gatherings. I know, they probably roll their eyes, but we almost always have every one there because they knew well in advance when our family gatherings were.
  13. Decide on the lighting plan for the exterior of the house.  This year, even though we are going to Cabo for Christmas, we plan to decorate the exterior even more than ever.  If the inside is going to be lightly decorated, then we are making up for it outside!
  14. Look for the perfect sugar free hot chocolate!  I'll be experimenting with my own recipes!
  15. Purchase my holiday wear.  I always look for a festive sweater, a festive long sleeved tee shirt, and freshen up my Christmas jewelry.
  16. Order my share of Christmas fiction. I love books that have the Christmas holiday as a background.
  17. My hairdresser thinks I am nuts, but I book my November and December cuts and color now. These are time consuming events, so I want to be sure I have them booked and planned into the calendar.
  18. I order our Christmas pjs as soon as I see them. I was able to get our tee shirts at the Christmas in July sale and now I am looking for leggings or pj bottoms.  
  19. Instead of air fresheners we diffuse essential oils, so I make sure I order my pine, cinnamon, sweet orange and peppermint!
  20. I get our gas fireplace serviced in October.  This year I might even switch up the logs!
  21. Last but not least by any means, I find out when The Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon is live on TV.  I know I can call it up anytime on Netflix, but I want the thrill of gathering around the TV and watching it as a family.  Call me old fashioned.
What are your MUST DOs before December first?  Share your secrets and help us all be better prepared for the best holiday ever!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Christmas Candies that You will Love!

Another treat I love to indulge in over the holidays is Christmas candy.  I love that I can give a little and that it will go a long way.  I am learning that a batch can be divided into four gifts, in a smaller tin and it is appreciate as much for its smallness as it is for its taste!

With the world watching its sugar intake, it is safe to say that I won't be making as much candy as usual, so I am considering doing a candy swap with my neighbors. Not as fancy as the cookie exchange, but the idea that I will make a pound of fudge and give her half, if she will give me half of her turtles.  It seems to be a fair exchange!  Plus, cuts down on the amount of work!  Take a look at these goodies and tell me, which two would you want to trade for?


15 Christmas Candy Recipes

Christmas Tree Chocolate Bark by Premeditated Leftovers
Candy Cane Fudge by the Jenny Evolution
Pistachio Cranberry Bark by Flour on My Face
Pumpkin Fudge by Nemcsok Farms
Crockpot Christmas Candy by Almost Super Mom
Cinnamon Whiskey Balls by Home Cooking Memories
English Toffee by the Idea Room
Peppermint Patties by the Gunny Sack
Cinnamon Candy by a Southern Fairytale
Muddy Buddies by Crazy Little Project
Microwave Caramels by Simple As That
Coconut Cream Truffles by Crazy for Crust
Christmas White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn by the Kitchen is My Playground
Chocolate Caramel Pecan Turtles by Lil’ Luna

If you already are a wizard at one of these delicious candies, please leave any tips you have for making them in the comments below.  Let's make our Christmas candy making experiences be good ones!